Tuesday, April 23, 2013

This Present Moment

Under soft sunshine and sweet songs,
The cares of day disappear,
And all the worries of past and future,
Give way to present glories.

There is no sorrow in the springtime heat.
The white snows are beaten,
And summer’s reign is heralded
By the white of blossom.

Peace is all that the noon allows.
The sun is early to rise
And late to depart,
And its generous time with us,
Lends we beings an immortal illusion –
A faith that the sunlit seconds will roll on
And on, one to another without cease,
Until the sunset comes at our bidding,
Giving way to clear, beautiful, lyrical night.

Farewell care and farewell fear.
Let the birds be as sirens to you,
The budding flowers as rocks in your sea.
Run your fearsome ship of yesterday
Onto the coast of beauty,
And never into a tomorrow sail again.

© Jack Blackburn, 23rd April 2013

Sunday, April 21, 2013

After the Thaw - Original Version

This poem was composed after an exercise at drama school, where I performed a character in a long-term improvisation for three days. The improvisation was set in 1649, and my character's name was Emmanuel, a veteran of the English Civil War. This poem went through many different versions as the writing was subsequently incorporated into a performance piece in a play. This is the Emmanuel version.

After the thaw, the sun was shining,
And the warmth had returned.
He had been alone, and he was happy alone.
But then he was changed.
He sipped from a sweetly poisoned cup.
And thirsted forever more.

Before, he would briefly encounter
And then release without regret.

Her stillness. Her intensity.

This was not mere satisfaction.
It was a joy he did not understand.
It grew in him,
Beautiful and cruel.

When he woke, it was night.
And the heat of the day,
Had been flooded by the cool of the moon.

And he was alone.

And in his solitude he felt
A feeling from the heat of battle.

He was afraid.

© Jack Blackburn, 21st April 2013

Friday, April 19, 2013

My ever-skipping heart

My ever-skipping heart,
That flirts with pain on every beat,
That urges me to foolishness,
That turns the merest glance received
Into an oasis of illusory delight,
That seeks out joy in the most hopeless of places,
That twists and turns from day to day,
And risks fearful misery in every waking hour:

May you never be stilled.
For every pain you dare to endure,
Is as nought to the joy that you dare to find.

© Jack Blackburn, 19th April 2013

Monday, April 15, 2013

Thatcher's Marching Band Woke Me Up

So, having been so rudely awoken by Her Majesty's Armed Forces and Swing Band, I watched the rehearsal for Lady T's funeral.

It was all deeply impressive. Loud music, orders being barked down Fleet Street and then followed in perfect unison, uniforms immaculately turned out, officers swishing swords, moments of mass stillness and silence, and, by the end of the run, Herculean amounts of horse dung across Ludgate Hill.

The whole thing, effective and moving (one way or another) as it will be, absolutely stinks of militaristic celebration of a cult of personality. In short, it's rather reminiscent of the sort of parade used in the anti-democratic states that The Lady fought against. 

David Dimbleby was walking along in the procession taking notes. Top effort for a 74 year old in the chilly morning light.

Favourite moments: Sergeant Bilko completing the presenting of his arms a second too late - there's nothing like the sound of a singular cock-up echoing off the steps of St Paul's; walking back up Fleet Street and watching the soldiers change the arm they were holding their weapons with, simply because I'd never really thought of them getting tired.

© Jack Blackburn, 15th April 2013

Friday, April 5, 2013

Some thoughts on loveliness

I was recently asked about what I find physically attractive in a woman. The girl who was asking me boiled it down to a straightforward choice: “Are you an arse man, or a tits man?”

My response to this was so bumbling that Boris Johnson could have taken notes: “Er… well… it depends. Sometimes it’s arse. Sometimes it’s breasts. So… both, really. Well, either/or.” That last part I find particularly troubling. It seems to imply a choice that would necessitate a distressing degree of surgery, but this is beside the point.

The point was that my foppishly, flustered response was not so much to do with embarrassment as it was to do with the fact that I didn’t agree with the choice. Neither of the two options are what I look for. I’m neither an arse man, nor a tits man, so much as I am a face man.

Here, there is an oddity. There are countless, stunning women who actually do very little for me. For me, there is something ineffable that is crucial; something that makes a beauty irresistible. My father, charming rake that he is, would describe it as pizazz or je ne sais quoi. I would give it a slightly different name: loveliness.

Loveliness is the key. Sexiness is great. Sexiness is fantastic, and it can enthral you, right up until the chemical rush fades. Whereas, you can lose your heart to loveliness in an instant, and remain a hopeless goner for eternity. Furthermore, if someone is lovely, they will be sexy.

Part of loveliness is in the composition of the person. Loveliness is not perfection, but it surpasses it. Loveliness is made by the little imperfections. If ever you have been close with someone who doesn’t like their nose, or their ears, or their smile, I can guarantee you that the imperfection they loathe is the thing that you loved the most.

Part of it is in the manner of the person: in their personality, charm and wit. These become physically apparent in the eyes. There is no attraction in the dead-eyed because there is no soul. There is nothing to connect with. The eyes must be alive, and they can do many things. They can inspire, terrify, comfort and seduce. The eyes of the lovely person can betray all of these, but what sets them apart from all others, is a capacity that is only present in loveliness.

It is a look of total happiness: a momentary twinkle of utter delight that is the crowning glory of loveliness. When that is seen, it’s too late my friend: you’ve been caught hook, line and sinker. Once you see that bliss, it will become your deepest desire to see it again and again and again.

Attraction is never simple. It is a lawless and surprising thing, but, though I have been attracted to a great many, different women, I know that when I genuinely and sincerely think of someone as lovely, and when I see that glint in the eye, then I am in the most terrible, wonderful kind of trouble.

© Jack Blackburn, 5th April 2013

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Maternal Convoy

I have just rediscovered this poem from April 2010. I hope you enjoy it.

Whilst sitting in a park, of which I am fond,
I saw a vast convoy of mothers, rounding the pond.
Each was armed with a resplendent pram or two:
A gaggle of parents and infants with nothing to do.

They marched two-by-two, as animals to the ark,
Apart from a loner, whose singularity was stark.
Had she been ostracised from a trio, or the group entire,
Or was she dreaming of joining the flock to which she aspired?

They pit-stopped round the corner, taking advantage of the shade,
A place which lesser mothers were forced to evade.
These had their prams, their parasols and their housewife's sunglasses too,
But the convoy stared at each one, to say "We are better than you."

Pity the young mother, who pushes her child alone,
Whose day is empty each time she leaves her home.
For she does not delight in the simple comfort and joy
Of parading in glory with the maternal convoy.

© Jack Blackburn, 12th January 2010

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Poems from the Last Eight Weeks

Because I would not dull you with my song,
I shyly meet this paper with my pen,
And quietly pray my rhyming goes not long,
Nor makes me small next to some other men.
I miss your eyes and their dear diamond gleam
Set deep in brown and rounded perfectly,
And thy dear laugh which makes all sadness seem
Unburdened by thy sweet infinity.
That mirth will sooth my bruised and aching heart
When next I hear it sounding in my ear,
And such dear thoughts in each and every part
Maintains my joy until you next are near.
I wake to see thee clearly in my skies
And sleep to dream so sweetly of your eyes.

I saw her step with grace into the street,
Adorned in blue cascading like her hair.
How nimbly she did skip on her bare feet:
The very incarnation of what’s fair.
She took me breathless in her gentle gaze,
And my young heart heard a cacoph’nous peace.
It found out love in numerous different ways,
And ne’er in adoration did it cease.
How true that moment was: both fierce and raw.
That youthful quickness did not dare to lie.
Elder eyes do disbelieve what they saw,
But faith in it will let the memory fly.
The truth of youth within us doth remain.
Its ecstasy will e’er be ours to claim.

I wonder, if we’d known what time we had,
Would we have treated those last days the same?
Would we have strived to make each other glad,
Not left grim misery to make its name?
If we with love had fought for happiness,
Knowing that our dear time was painful brief,
Perhaps we would have ‘scaped this tearfulness
And still possess our joy, and not our grief.
Now all such thoughts and dreams are in our past,
And nought but endless questions can remain.
Toward our future must we hurry fast
And lend past hopes reluctant, sad disdain?
Though in my past you were complete delight,
Now, I must leave thee from my tear-stained sight.

© Jack Blackburn, 12th January 2013